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Our Fourth Industrial Revolution Has No Precedent, Part I

The broad implications

We’re overloaded by so much, often unsettling, news of social, economic and political change that it’s hard to separate out what is important from sensationalistic click bait. In a previous Insights post, I wrote about the future of manufacturing. But that’s just one component of a sweeping Fourth Industrial Revolution that will change everything, including the very fabric of our sense of self, even our physical natures.

The Scope And Depth Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is emerging out of the Third (Digital) Industrial Revolution that began in the mid-20th century. At its heart is the rapid integration of breakthrough digital, physical and biological technologies. Related changes are developing at an exponential rate with unprecedented breadth and depth–transforming not only production but private enterprise, government and our personal lives, as well.

According To A Recent WSJ Article–

  • “Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.”

The Broad Implications–

  • Easier, faster access to the Internet has already greatly enhanced the efficiency of our ordering products and services. We can now do virtually anything remotely.
  • Look for a continued decrease in transportation and communication costs, more effective supply chains and reduced trade costs, all of which should help to open new markets and help accelerate economic growth.
  • But there’s a catch–the trend towards jobs requiring high levels of talent will increase, while Artificial Intelligence will eliminate many mid-level positions Providers of intellectual and physical property, spearheaded by those with high levels of talent, will be the big winners. Low paying jobs will also increase, deepening the divide between the rich and everyone else.
  • This ‘winner takes all’ bottom line is already creating profound middle class dissatisfaction. We can see this in the growing appeal of political candidates and parties that used to be considered too extreme/marginal to be taken seriously. This is happening throughout the Developed World.
  • Finally, more than 30% of the world’s population now uses the Internet, creating unprecedented opportunity to connect with others, to learn and share information. Ideally, this would lead to broader social understanding and tolerance. Unfortunately, the dark side of this development, outlined in previous OWDT posts, is clearly evident in the spread of calculated disinformation. The most dramatic example of this is the role of social media in catalyzing the rise of ISIS and other terrorist networks. As with all revolutions, it’s often the rise in unrealistic expectations and, in this case–fantastical beliefs– that fuel conflict, even more than what’s actually happening.

In Part II of this Insights post, I’ll specify how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact business, government and our everyday lives.

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